In this upper division science program we will use topics and theoretical concepts within microbiology and organic chemistry to study how human activity, or anthropogenic pollution, has affected the environment.
In fall quarter, we will begin by examining the roles microorganisms play in the environment, their metabolism, and the broad diversity of ecosystems they occupy. We will also begin our study of organic chemistry, learning the structure, reactivities, and mechanisms of reaction of the major functional groups – from small molecules to polymers and plastics. We will also read primary literature in the areas of environmental biology and chemistry, focusing on major themes such as air, water and soil pollution from anthropogenic sources, and environmental clean-up.
In winter quarter, we will study microbial ecology to gain an overall understanding of the role of microorganisms in natural communities. We will examine ecosystems and their disruption, microbial metabolism, and biogeochemical cycling, specifically the C, N, and S cycles. We will continue our study of organic chemistry, and in addition, we will apply this knowledge to environmental chemistry, examining the fate of persistent anthropogenic organic chemicals, including pesticides, PCBs, dioxins, and plastics. We will also study their effect on a variety of organisms due to their general accumulation in the environment, as well as their bioaccumulation. In addition, we will examine methods of bioremediation to remove toxic chemicals, and human use of alternative materials, such as biodegradable plastics, designed to replace products produced from petrochemicals.
Throughout both quarters laboratory activities will teach fundamental and modern methods of microbiology and organic chemistry, all within relevant environmental themes. Laboratory activities will include culturing and the use of genetic methods for the quantification of microorganisms in the environment, organic synthesis methods combined with green chemistry methods, and the use of scientific instrumentation. We will use Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) to analyze organic mixtures and to characterize microorganisms in soil via phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis; we will also use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) for structural analysis of organic compounds.
Class activities will include lecture, small group problem solving workshops, seminar, student presentations, instrumentation workshops, laboratories, and some field work.
Taking the Environmental Biology and Chemistry program for both fall and winter quarters followed by the Developmental Biology program in spring will give students much of the material presented in the regularly offered program Molecule to Organism.
at least two quarters of general biology and two quarters of general chemistry, each with lab.
Course Reference Numbers
lab and field biology, chemistry, and environmental science.
$50 per quarter for lab fees
All 32 credits are upper division, and will include environmental microbiology with lab, microbial ecology with lab, biogeochemistry, organic chemistry with lab (2 full quarters), environmental chemistry, scientific instrumentation, and seminar.